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Wagstaff’s Picks: Weekend of October 14, 2017 October 12, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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Another middling result from last week. I went 7-6 to bring the season totals to 27-34-1. Only 7 picks to make this week, so if I run the table, I’ll be batting .500 for the season.

Been watching a lot more baseball than football in the past couple of weeks as well – the playoffs have been great, and the Yankees are doing WAY better than I ever would have predicted, and I’m enjoying all of it.

No NFL picks again, but here are my 7 college football choices:

Ohio U by 9 1/2 over Bowling Green

Virginia by 3 1/2 over North Carolina

Marshall by 15 1/2 over Old Dominion

Utah plus 13 against USC

Ohio State by 24 over Nebraska

New Mexico State by 7 1/2 over Georgia Southern

South Carolina plus 3 1/2 against Tennessee

And no, I really didn’t care about the Star Wars trailer.

 

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Wagstaff’s Picks: Week of Oct 4-7, 2017 October 3, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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The worst case scenario resulted from last week’s picks – I went 5-5.

My original theory, as you may have surmised by the picture clue from the previous post, was to make my picks and then actually go with the opposite. Was my handicapping a reverse barometer?

Well, no.

My handicapping makes no difference whatsoever, it seems. I’m no different than a random coin flip. A solid 50%.

I REFUSE to believe that. Maybe it would work that way in a single week, but over the course of an entire season, my thought processes/opinions/analysis should prove better than 50% if I’m accurate and lower if I keep making mistakes.

Season totals are 20-28-1, for a percentage of .408, so perhaps a few more weeks of non-negative results can bring me up to that magic 60% figure found among the top pros at this crap.

Back to my original screens/system/masochism. I came up with these:

Arkansas St by 7 1/2 over Georgia South

Notre Dame by 15 over North Carolina

Buffalo plus 6 1/2 against Western Michigan

Ohio U by 12 over Central Michigan

Syracuse by 4 1/2 over Pittsburgh

New Mexico State plus 11 against Appalachian State

Maryland plus 31 1/2 against Ohio State

Minnesota plus 4 against Purdue

Utah plus 6 1/2 against Stanford

Tulane by 4 over Tulsa

LA Monroe by 6 over Texas St

Northern Illinois by 23 1/2 over Kent State

Miami by 3 over Florida State

Hopefully I’ll improve. Hopefully the Patriots’ defense will improve.

Hopefully…well, a lotta things, to be honest. But time will tell.

Wagstaff’s Picks: Weekend of September 28-30, 2017 September 27, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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I did a tad better than in the last round, but not much better than a coin flip. Going a total of 8-7 brings me to a season total of 15-23-1.

Which SUCKS.

So a NEW screen has been added this week, just to see what happens.

I’ll tell you what it is next week, if it works.

So here we go:

Texas by 6 over Iowa State

Duke plus 6 1/2 against Miami

Kentucky by 14 1/2 over East Michigan

Massachusetts plus 8 1/2 against Ohio U

Northwestern plus 14 against Wisconsin

Connecticut by 18 over SMU

Arkansas by 17 over New Mexico State

Florida by 10 over Vanderbilt

North Texas plus 8 1/2 against Southern Miss

Nevada plus 10 against Fresno State

My new screen worked amazingly well in some paper baseball betting… we’ll see if it works here.

Wagstaff’s Picks: Weekend of September 21-23, 2017 September 19, 2017

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My picks last week were so wrong, so pathetic, so ultimately crappy…. I decided I needed to overhaul my methods.

As tempting as it was to continue picking the same way and then simply applying the George Costanza “just do the opposite!” theory, I instead went through EVERY lined game and crunched data on the spreads & outcomes.

My goal? To come up with a more automatic screening system, similar to stock screens.

I’ve tried lots of stock screens. Some of them have actually worked. And when they’ve worked, they’ve been pretty consistent, if I stuck to the rules and didn’t let emotions sway me. Let’s see if spotting weaknesses in what the oddsmakers post can work the same way.

Although if you’re paying attention, last week’s Duke game illustrated the contrarian rule I mentioned – when a spread seems WAY out of whack with what you think is reality, bet with it… the oddsmakers know more than you. Duke by 14 seemed high, but then they won by 14. ON THE FRICKIN’ NOSE.

I made the HUGE mistake of listening to too much sports radio and some podcasts about betting football lines. I let the discussions amongst the professionals influence me, especially in going with teams like Pitt, BYU and Louisville last week.

I’m tuning all of it out. Back to playing Count Basie and books on tape during my drives.

I will cleanse myself of outside influences.

First, I went through all the lined games from last week, all the stats and so forth. 59 games in total. Jeez.

I set up some screens, crunched some numbers, and came up with a set of screens that would have had solid results last week. So, let’s try an experiment and see if it works with week, with a bonus level added. I went through every lined game for this week…. 56 of ’em this time. Oy. But here’s what I came up with…

College Football Picks Passing ALL Screens:

Penn State by 12 1/2 over Iowa

Clemson by 34 over Boston College

VA Tech by 28 over Old Dominion

Navy by 11 1/2 over Cincinnati

UNLV plus 40 1/2 against Ohio State

Michigan State plus 4 against Notre Dame

Ball State plus 7 1/2 against Western Kentucky

College Football Leaners – Most Screens passed, but not all – for experimental purposes only:

S. Florida by 20 over Temple

Duke by 2 1/2 over North Carolina

Purdue plus 10 against Michigan

LA Tech plus 8 1/2 against South Carolina

Kentucky plus 2 1/2 against Florida

E. Michigan by 2 1/2 over Ohio U

Under 51 1/2 in the Georgia State/Charlotte game

Syracuse plus 23 1/2 against LSU

No NFL picks this week – the system I put together needs more data, and they haven’t played enough games yet.

My pathetic record thus far is 7-16-1 for a batting average of 30%. BUT THIS IS WHERE IT ALL TURNS AROUND!

Hopefully… the screens I’m using would have returned a 9-1 record last week with a bunch of different games I ignored. I’ll take a chance that doing that well above a 50% “control norm” is a big enough disparity to prove the worthiness of my screens. Let’s see what happens this week, and if I’m actually on to something here.

And a shanah tovah to y’all!

Wagstaff’s Picks: Week of September 16, 2017 September 14, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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I’m not going pro, not yet. Not after a mediocre record last week.

It wasn’t enough to watch the Patriots defense dissolve into melted butter. I also misread some teams that could not cover big spreads, and it looks like USC is for real. Well, so far, anyway.

I’ll swing for the fences this week with a dozen picks I have decent levels of confidence in, as well as discussing a couple of others where I’ll bow out and leave it up to you.

College Games:

I looked at a bunch of matchups with large spreads to see which ones I thought were overreactions to the first couple of weeks of games. We’re still in that phase of the early season in both college and pro, before the oddsmakers have more and more data to work with.

I like BYU plus 17 against Wisconsin. BYU has sucked so far, I’m going with the “they’re DUE!” factor since they are a better team than how they’ve played so far, and they’re at home. I don’t know if they’ll win, but I’m guessing it will be a low scoring game, and 17 points is a lot. I also like Pittsburgh plus 14 against Oklahoma State, banking on Pitt coming off a tougher game versus Penn State and Oklahoma State coming off playing Tulsa and S. Alabama.

For covering a big spread, I like the aforementioned USC to cover 15 1/2 over Texas as well as taking the Over 67 1/2 in that one, and Minnesota to cover 10 over Middle Tennessee State.

The game that jumps out of the odds board is Duke as 14 (!) point favorite over Baylor. Baylor was once a national power, but they have truly sucked so far this year, never mind all the problems they’ve had with their program off the field. Duke has played well, but are they really this good?? My number crunching puts Duke at maybe a 3-4 point edge, so part of me thinks this is a slam-dunk pick to go with Baylor. But in the back of my mind is an old contrarian angle when it comes to out-of-whack spreads like this, which is: the oddsmakers know more than you. They’re NOT that stupid… so while the number-cruncher says Baylor, my contrarian gut says to go against the crowd and pick Duke. Consequently, I am not making a pick here, but will instead merely observe to see what wins – my numbers, or the contrarian historic angle.

Another game that’s a close call but ultimately a pass for me is Miami OH by 5 over Cincinnati. I’m fairly confident in Miami OH to win, just not sure about the 5 points. Meh.

Rounding out the college picks: In the big Saturday night game, I like the at-home-revenge angle and will go with Louisville plus 3 1/2 against Clemson. Clemson got by them last year, but it was close, and Jackson has improved as QB. It’ll be a good game that I think Louisville can win outright. I also like California at home plus 3 1/2 against Ole Miss, and I’ll go with the Over 49 1/2 in the Tennessee/Florida matchup.

NFL:

After watching Kansas City beat the crap out of my team last week, I am TOTALLY UNEMOTIONAL as I pick against them this week.

No, really!

I like the Eagles plus 6 against the Chiefs, as well as the Over 48 in the game. Philly looked decent against Washington last week, and the Chiefs lost their best defensive player.

I like betting Overs. Especially when the total is topped earlier in the game, and I can kick back and watch the rest of it play out with no stress and a drink in my hand, knowing I’ve won. Betting unders mean staying nervous until the final tick.

I also like the Vikings plus 5 1/2 against the Steelers, and the Packers plus 3 against the Falcons, even if it’s the Falcons in their spiffy new stadium. The Falcons squeaked by the Bears last week, and the Packers are way more dangerous.

So there you are, 12 picks. I went 3-5 last week to bring the season totals to 5-6-1.

THIS IS WHERE IT ALL TURNS AROUND!

Wagstaff’s Picks: Week of September 9, 2017 September 7, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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Nobody seems to care about my football picks. Posting them doesn’t significantly increase the traffic this humble blog gets on a regular basis. But I don’t care. I’ll keep making them for my own jollies.

And the biggest jolly? Like I said last week, I have a better batting average with these things than most of the professional pickers out there posting picks (especially with spreads and totals) on bigger sports sites like CBS or ESPN.

Therefore, I’m basically posting a free giveaway of money to anyone simply betting my picks. Read my site and make money. And people don’t bother.

I always knew in my dark heart that the majority of people are morons, and now I have definitive proof.

CATS IS BETTER.

I went 2-1-1 last week. I’ll continue my BOLD RISK TAKING by picking some NFL games in the opening week, without any stats to go on. And there are a few college games I like.

College:

I think Clemson can cover 5 against Auburn, and Washington State to cover 10 1/2 against the Boise State team that scored late to force that tie in my picks last week. As much as I think USC will win the game, I’ll still go with Stanford plus 5 1/2 against them, since I think it’ll be close.

NFL:

Let’s go with the Falcons to cover 7 against the Bears, the Raiders plus 3 against the Titans, the Steelers to cover 9 over the Browns, and (I can’t believe I’m doing this…) the Rams to cover 4 against the Colts. I’d also go with the Under 41 in the Rams/Colts game.

So am I still giving away free money? I guess we’ll know by Sunday night.

 

Wagstaff’s Picks: Inaugural College Football Edition, Weekend of September 2, 2017 August 31, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Football.
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college-football-bettingIt’s time for everyone to leave their safe space and confront the intersectionality of irresponsibly sourced animal product, the capitalist exploitation of undergraduate hopefuls, and the disempowering patriarchal sexism of the male gaze on the sidelines.

College football is back! And just in time, too… it seems like everything else we read about colleges these days makes them sound more like insane asylums combined with summer theater camp. I’m sure the morons in sports broadcasting will try their damndest to drag all of the repulsive college campus zeitgeist into what ought to be an escape from the news during their commentary, but another advantage of watching games on the big ol’ screen is that you can do so with the sound off.

In any case, as much as I normally like to wait a few weeks into the season before prognosticating on the outcomes of games, I decided to plunge right in this year. Last year I finished with an overall 59% winning percentage in both college & NFL picks. A little research told me that’s actually good.

I know, really??

But evidently, that’s how well the SUPERGENIUS game pickers all over sports radio basically do at their BEST. Most of ’em have losing records or barely even out, meaning a coin flip would be a better method than listening to people who EARN THEIR GOD DAMN LIVING analyzing sports.

I guess it’s just like any other field, that is – a crammed space of highly credentialed yet underqualified people. WELCOME TO MY WORLD.

Okay, enough bitching, and not enough bragging about my winning percentage. Let’s start with some simple picks, based mostly on how I think the bookmakers have misread some things.

In the BIG MATCH-UP MARQUIS GAME for Week 1, we have #1 Alabama by 7 over #3 Florida State. I think both of these teams will probably make the playoff at the end of the season, but in this opener, I think ‘bama will win by 10 or more, so I’ll take Alabama to cover.

I also like NC State to cover 5 over South Carolina. They were underrated last year, with most of their losses being under 1 score.

For underdogs, I mostly like Texas A&M plus 3 against UCLA since UCLA does even worse against the spread than A&M, especially early in seasons. I REALLY like Troy plus 11 against a fading Boise State outfit.

The enigma game I’d love to pick but really can’t is Michigan/Florida. I’ll watch it, it’ll be a good one, but even though I lean towards Florida as a 5.5 point underdog, I think Michigan will be trying to prove themselves all year long since winning the Big 10 playoff game is basically a trip to the championship playoff game, and they’ve got both Ohio State and Wisconsin in their path. I’d only bet this game if I were really, really bored in a Vegas sports book with an extra $5 burning a hole in my pocket. Other than that, it’s just one to watch.

It’ll be a good weekend to stay indoors, too, at least where I am and it’s 110+ every day outside. Ugh. Autumn can’t come soon enough, and not just for October baseball.

Hike!

Quick And Easy Chinese Spicy Shrimp August 4, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Cooking, Food.
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The Martin Yan cookbook I snagged a month or so back at a rummage sale for a buck continues to pay dividends.

Tonight I concocted a slight variation on one of his shrimp recipes, and came up with the following:

  1. Peeled/deveined about 3/4 pound of large-ish shrimp (16-20s)
  2. Tossed ’em with a pinch or two of kosher salt, one minced garlic clove, and a couple of pinches of red pepper flakes
  3. The shrimp and seasonings would then get stirfried until practically done in a wok, maybe 4-5 minutes.
  4. Added the premixed sauce: 2 1/2 tsp soy sauce, 2 tsp ketchup, 1 tsp hot chili paste, 2 tsp honey.
  5. Thickened it a tad with maybe 1/2 tsp of cornstarch in 1 tsp water.

AND THAT WAS IT.

This was amazingly easy to throw together, and tasted just great. Hints of sweetness with the honey, followed up with a sneaky increase of heat and then a finish of the garlic.

Yan’s version leaves the shells on the shrimp and dusts ’em with cornstarch before wokking ’em with dry red chilis and garlic. But the sauce is the same. The texture on his version would be different, but I’ve never been crazy about leaving the shells on shrimps. If you fry ’em enough and they crispy, fine, but I didn’t trust myself. And I still got what I wanted – shrimp in a thick, clingy spicy sauce.

A recurring motif in this Yan book is also the use of balsamic vinegar and hoisin sauce to create sweet/sour effects underneath chili heat. The Kung Pao recipe uses this, as well as some others, and I discovered it worked rather well. Despite large amounts of chili paste with red pepper flakes on top of it, the dishes do not come out overly hot, but well balanced.

AND my copy is an autographed first edition! Not too bad for a buck.

Random Baseball Card of the Day: 1970 AL Homerun Leaders July 15, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Baseball, Baseball Cards.
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Well, maybe not so random. I remembered this card in my collection the other day when Aaron Judge won the All Star Break Homerun Derby. Judge made it look easy, and with his enormous 6 foot 7/280 pound frame looked like a man among boys. A guy that huge can generate a lot of power, and when you combine that with the physical and mental skills you need to hit major league pitching that Judge seems to have acquired between last year and now, well… you get the kind of monster stats he’s piling up.

But I thought back to Frank Howard, the big slugger for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the early ’60s before pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium lessened Howard’s sweet spots. They dealt him to the lowly Washington Senators in 1965 in a multiplayer deal that would net them Claude Osteen. Howard would continue to hit the hell out of the ball in Washington for years, always winding up in the running for home run titles. He’d get it in 1970 with an impressive 44 homers and 126 rbis, with a .962 OPS.

Yaz might be number 3 in homers on the card, but his offensive numbers that year were amazing. 40 homers, 102 rbis, lost the batting title by fractions to Alex Johnson, and led the league in on base, slugging and OPS with 1.044. How the hell did he lose MVP to Boog Powell that year? Did they need to pick someone from the Pennant Winner and eventual World Champion Orioles? SMH.

Harmon Killibrew smashed homeruns for the Twins his entire career. Back when this card came out, only Aaron and Mays had more lifetime as active players. He’d pass 500 homers lifetime the following year.

But both Killibrew and Yaz were baseball player sized. Both are 5 foot 11/180 or so pounds.  Guys like Howard were freakish, at 6 foot 7 and 230 pounds. You find guys that big much more in football and basketball than in baseball, the sport that welcomes guys like Freddie Patek (5 foor 5, 148 pounds) if they can play well.

Add 50 pounds of muscle to Howard and you get Aaron Judge. Ye Gods! I’m glad he’s on my team. It’s basically watching a behemoth the size of Rob Gronkowski with the baseball skills of Willie Mays.

Howard was the best slugger to ever play for a Washington team, even if that team is now in Texas. The current Washington team put a statue of him outside their stadium anyway, since he’s part of the city’s baseball history. And everyone still loves the guy since he’s so good natured.

The bigger they are, the nicer they are, as Bugs Bunny once said.

Keep Those Reviews Coming July 7, 2017

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, Writing.
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A quick update on the literary canon of yours truly:

I have an appearance in the Independent Book section of the current issue of the New York Review of Books. (Link opens to a PDF). This is sort of an experiment on my part – I’m assuming the disproportionate majority of people who look at this particular outlet are directly related to the publishing biz – agents, editorial assistants, “scouts” and so forth of various degrees. It’ll be interesting to see who takes notice.

And if you do, that email is just over to the right… drop a line and say hello!

Another nice thing to happen is that readership of Wagstaff & Meatballs is driving more interest in the first book in the series, Cut To Wagstaff. Sales of that have perked up and new reviews might start to appear.

The third in the series is in the plotting stages, if you’re curious.

The first book of a different series, this one a lightly comic scifi adventure series for younger readers of all ages, is in the illustration stage.

AND I’ve been selling all sorts of old crap on ebay for way more than I ever thought I’d get. At some point, I’ll be able to see the floor in my closet once again!

Everything’s coming up Milhous!

So if you’re out there & haven’t posted a review of either book to Amazon yet, please join in! People in other creative fields get to enjoy the reaction from their audience immediately. Writing can be a lonely thing – you spend countless hours cobbling the thing together & banging it out, only to send it out into the world for dribs and drabs of reaction over time, if you get them at all – since reading, too, is a solitary and often lonely thing.

But I wanna know! What to people think? Any minor characters you particularly like and want to see more of in future stories? Any aspect of the book really stick with you?

I can never predict these things, so I’m always curious. I think all writers are, whether they admit it or not.

So keep ’em coming, thanks!